Fighters loyal to the Taliban appear to have been pushed out of the center of the city of Kunduz during a lightning overnight blitz by Afghan special forces, assisted by U.S. air strikes and commando advisors on the ground. While there were additional reports of continuing fighting this morning—several government buildings and residences are apparently still being held by the Taliban, and a search-and-clear operation was still underway—the Afghan national flag was flying over the main square of the city.
Reinforcements had managed to reach embattled Afghan troops besieged at Kunduz airport late on Wednesday night. A counter-offensive was then quickly launched, which appears to have killed scores Taliban fighters and scattered the rest into the surrounding areas. The surrounding areas, however, have been held by the Taliban for the better part of this year. There has been no word yet if Kabul intended to continue the fight or would be content to return to the status quo ante.
Afghan forces struggled to retake Kunduz on Wednesday despite U.S. military assistance, according the The Wall Street Journal:
The Taliban tightened its grip on the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Wednesday, leaving only the local airport firmly in government hands, even as the U.S. military dispatched ground troops and carried out airstrikes in support of its allies.
Most Afghan forces and some 100 U.S. special-operations personnel remained in the heavily fortified airport late on Wednesday, and government troops battled militants in surrounding villages, Afghan officials said.
Last December, President Obama officially announced the end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan and promised the U.S. would be out of the country by the end of his presidency in 2016. Yet after a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier this year, Obama said the American drawdown would be slowed and that nearly 10,000 troops would remain in the country until this December. Kunduz is just the latest in a series of territorial gains for the Taliban (helpfully mapped by The New York Times). Now, the U.S. has to decide whether to provide even more backup in Kunduz and may ultimately have to reconsider the 2015 and 2016 deadlines.